No. 10 Air Force Heads to NCAA Championship as Fourth Seed
Nov. 28, 2012
The 10th-ranked Air Force water polo team travels to Los Angeles, Calif., this week, Dec. 1-2, to participate in the 2012 National Men's Collegiate Water Polo Championship, hosted by the University of Southern California.
The Falcons, seeded fourth, will play top-seed host USC in the first game on Saturday, while the second game will feature second-seed UCLA versus third-seed St. Francis Brooklyn. The third-place game will be played Sunday afternoon at 1:00 (PT), followed by the championship game at 3:12 p.m. All four games will be streamed live at NCAA.com.
SCOUTING THE FALCONS...
Junior Josh Stedman is the team's leading scorer with 82 points on the season, including a team-high 61 goals, while seniors Brad Rajchel (39g, 23a) and Cruz Smithson (40g, 20a) have added 62 and 60 points, respectively. Meanwhile, senior goalkeeper Mike Fish has tallied 365 saves on the year.
SCOUTING THE TROJANS...
USC is coached by Jovan Vavic, in his 18th year leading the Trojans. Vavic, a 10-time national coach of the year, holds 10 national championships (seven men's, three women's) and carries a 418-64 career record on the men's side.
This season, the Trojans feature six returning All-Americans, including junior Nikola Vavic, who has registered a team-best 79 goals on the season, and sophomore Kostas Genidounias, who has added 62 scores. Vavic and Genidounias were both named All-MPSF first-team selections, along with James Clark and Jeremy Davie, while Michael Rosenthal (second team), Mace Rapsey and Matt Burton (honorable mention) all earned MPSF recognition as well.
SCOUTING THE BRUINS...
The Bruins feature four returning All-Americans this season, including 2011 first-team honorees Josh Samuels and Griffin White. Samuels, a first-team All-MPSF selection this year, leads UCLA's offense with 65 goals on the season, while White has added 42 scores.
SCOUTING THE TERRIERS...
St. Francis is coached by Igor Samardzija, in his fourth year at the helm of the Terriers' program. Samardzija, who carries a 66-28 career record, was recently named the CWPA Northern Division Coach of the Year for the second-straight season.
Among the leaders for the Terriers are goalkeeper Igor Mladenovic and top scorer Marko Gencic, both who were named first-team all-conference selections.
A meeting between Air Force and St. Francis Brooklyn would be the eighth in the all-time series, with the Terriers holding a 5-2 advantage over the Falcons. The two teams split a pair of contests in 2011, with each team earning a one-goal victory.
AIR FORCE AT THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP...
Prior to this season, Air Force's best-ever finish at the NCAA Championship was a sixth-place showing in 1990. The Falcons placed seventh in 1994, while finishing eighth in 1974, 1978, 1979, 1981 and 1986.
WWPA COACH OF THE YEAR...
Heidmous, winning the third WWPA Coach of the Year honor of his career, guided the Falcons to a 16-10 regular season record and 9-4 mark in the Western Water Polo Association, despite being chosen to finish fourth in the league's preseason poll. He also elevated Air Force to a national top 10 ranking following the Falcons' WWPA title run.
WWPA CHAMPIONSHIP RUN...
Against CMS, Air Force rolled to a 9-3 advantage at the half before cruising to the eight-goal victory. Senior Cruz Smithson led the Falcons' offense with five goals, while goalkeeper Mike Fish tallied 14 saves in just under three and a half periods.
In the Falcons' semifinal contest against Loyola Marymount, senior captain Brad Rajchel notched a game-high four goals, including the gamewinner, to upset the second-seeded Lions. Air Force's win ended an 18-game losing streak against Loyola Marymount which dated back to the 2003 season.
Meanwhile, Air Force advanced to its first WWPA championship game since 1999, facing UC San Diego. Despite dropping all three of their regular-season match-ups versus the Tritons, the Falcons pulled away in the second half to secure the win. Fish had an outstanding performance in goal for Air Force, registering 18 saves, while Rajchel and junior Andrew Hamilton tallied two goals each to pace the Falcons' offense.
WWPA ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM...
RECORD BOOK WATCH...
Additionally, Smithson also moved into the Academy's top five list for career goals scored, ranking fifth in school history.
RECORD BOOK WATCH, PT. 2...
In addition, Fish has averaged 12.58 saves per game in 2012, a mark which would set the new single-season record at the Academy, surpassing the record of 11.56 shared by Fred Logan (1981) and Mark Baudendistel (1989).
RECORD BOOK WATCH, PT. 3...
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